📚 The Wicked King by Holly Black

The Folk of the Air, Book 1

Reviewed Jan. 2019

Narrator: Caitlin Kelly
Length: 10 hours 21 minutes
Publisher: Hachette Audio⎮2019

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Summary

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

When two Russian magicians come looking for a man named Alex Karkarov, they hire Lizbeth to find him or his family, but there are problems: The man they're looking for is dead, but he has a daughter they now need to find, as an ever-growing set of sorcerers and gunnies do not want them to succeed. It's a good thing Lizbeth is a deadly gunfighter; too bad she hates sorcerers, even the ones on whom she has to learn to rely.

Number-one New York Times best-seller Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse mysteries, True Blood, Midnight Crossroad) returns to fantasy in a taut thriller set in a US where magic is an acknowledged truth, but disreputable.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.75 Stars

Holy freaking cow. Holly Black has done it to me again. I cannot believe how good The Wicked King was. I won't say it was better than The Cruel Prince, but it was damn close, let me tell you... I have to give the edge to The Cruel Prince based on its position in the series, but it's not often that a sequel gives a first installment such a run for its money. I'd almost come to accept the fact that sequels are rarely as good as their predecessors, be it books or movies. And then The Wicked King came along.

I started out wondering if I should re-listen to The Cruel Prince, just to refresh my memory. Black doesn't do the best job of "recapping on the run", so it's largely left up to the listener to recall the events of the first book. There's a five month gap between installments in the story, so it doesn't pick up immediately where The Cruel Prince left off. In reality, there was a gap of about a year in between the two books.

Luckily, as the story progressed, the major plot points of The Cruel Prince returned to mind and so did all the feels. I remembered exactly why I was so enamored by The Cruel Prince last year and doubled down on it. The Wicked King had me squirming with excitement. Seriously, Holly Black needs to be a soap opera writer because she definitely brings the drama. That ending practically had me flailing around on the floor in angst and agony. I can't believe I didn't see it coming. I mean, I saw something coming (one always does with Holly Black), but not that.

The Wicked King also made gigantic strides with character development. I can see now that my few criticisms of The Cruel Prince were indeed premature. Black was obviously just setting the foundation for the series in The Cruel Prince and had always intended on "playing the long game". I see that now and I tip my hat to it.

Cardan and was still the most complex character, but The Wicked King allowed for more character growth all-around, with a few exceptions. I hereby bestow the title of the 'most improved' character to Jude. She became a more dynamic character in this installment, as we got to see more of what makes her tick. I found it interesting that Black chose to use Jude's flaws to highlight this. I found it more interesting that the more flawed Jude seem to be, the more I liked her (and related to her).

Taryn, however, was still abysmal. I keep waiting for her redeeming story line, or at least an explanation of her actions from her point-of-view, but I'm not sure we'll ever get it. Black seems content to leave her as a passive (and flat) antagonist. We all know that Locke is going to get what's coming to him, but I really want a redemption arc for Taryn. Black writes sibling bonds extremely well and I need her to make things right between Jude and Taryn. My soul needs it.

Jude has such an interesting family dynamic. It bothers me that I don't think I can get everything I want from it in the one remaining installment. I'm really hoping Black will come out with novellas exploring the various family ties. I'm sure a spinoff series would be asking for too much, but each of these characters has so much potential that I can't stand to see any of it left untapped.

Narration review: It's not surprising that Caitlin Kelly's performance was just as good as it was in The Cruel Prince. I wouldn't expect anything less from her. She has obviously found her "sweet spot" and is making herself comfortable there. I'm beyond happy to see that audiobook community is recognizing her for the talent she is and giving her due credit. In my opinion, being the voice of this series could very well define and elevate Kelly's career. Working with an author like Holly Black is a huge deal. It allows Kelly to shine on a higher level and she has definitely risen to the occasion. ♣︎

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